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20.04.2021 Social Justice In Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos Govt is ‘Grabbing the Land of the Poor and Selling to the Rich’

Published 20th Apr, 2021

By Ibrahim Adeyemi

Landlords of the over 300 houses demolished at Oreki-Alakun Village in Ibeju-Lekki Local Government Area of Lagos State have accused the Lagos State Government of conspiracy, land-grabbing and abuse of power.

On August 20, 2020, during the Covid-19 lockdown, officials of the Lagos State Task Force displaced thousands of residents of the community after demolishing their houses.

When the houses were demolished, victims said, everyone had thought the government intended to use the land for a public establishment such as a hospital or a higher institution. But to their dismay, the said hectares of lands were sold out to “richer people” and private developers.

The Epe High Court had ordered the suspension of all construction works on the site but many buyers who have just acquired pieces of land are violating the court order.

On Sunday, some of the owners of the grabbed land gathered at the site of the demolition to protest the illegal displacement of hundreds of landlords and residents who “laboured to build houses only for the government to destroy them and give their lands to others to buy”.

Victor Bade, one of the landlords, described it is a land grabbing case, emphasising that “the government is giving the land of the poor to the rich”. 

“This vast hectares of land here were demolished. This was an established estate before it was hijacked; there were houses, schools and churches,” Bade screamed out during the protest.

“Around 2 am, some so-called Task Force and some land grabbers came in the name of Lagos State and demolished the estate. We have the evidence; we have the videos.”

Bade added that some of the owners of the houses and the custodians of the place have put a caveat emptor on the land to warn land buyers who are acting like they are above the law.

“The most painful part of it is that they’re not using this land for public use but they are selling it out to private people.  A lot of people here have lost everything; they have nothing,” he lamented

BLIND MAN RENDERED HOMELESS IN TEARS

Kelly Igbehi, one of the victims of the demolition, said his life has been miserable and unbearable ever since his house was demolished. Speaking at the protest ground, he expressed sadness that despite being visually impaired, and with a wife and children, the three-bedroom disability-friendly bungalow he built with his money was destroyed.

“The government did not pity me; they came in at about 2am in the night to destroy my house. I’m talking now because this is happening for the second time. I can’t imagine a government with conscience. They saw me in my condition and destroyed my house. This is a government that was supposed to build a house for me as blind man.

“Up till today, I don’t have a place to stay with my family. I’ve been living from one place to another with my children. I have been living an unbearable life with my family. I am begging the public to come to my aid to see how they can help me.

“You can see a lot of people here. Over 300 houses were destroyed. The Egbeyemi Task Force came to destroy our houses without a court order. This is injustice.”

ARTWORKS WORTH OVER N200M GONE!

Chinedu Udezuna, a member of the Eko’ni Baje group, said he doesn’t believe that the government has a hand in this demolition. He insisted that people of influence and affluence are the perpetrators of the crime against them. 

He however lamented that apart from his house that was demolished his Tourist Art Centre that was worth over N200 million was not spared.

“My 200 million worth artworks were demolished. During Covid-19, we were treating our men here with herbs; none of them contracted Covid,” he said.

“We had herbs here that we cooked every morning and evening. I have been in this place over 13 years ago. That is why I refuse to believe that the government did this. I don’t want to believe it.”

RAIN OF CURSES ON LAND GRABBERS

Lasisi Oluwasegun, a son of the soil, was moved to tears while protesting. He rained curses on those who came to encroach their land and displace them in the middle of a pandemic.

“My forefathers had been on this land for over 300 years ago. But some people came eight months ago with a Bode Agoro Certificate of Occupancy to destroy our homes,” he said in tears.

“Whosoever has a hand in this shall be forsaken by the god of this land; the gods of Ibeju shall forsake them; by God’s grace they’re cursed. They shall be unfortunate and spellbound. Whatever they lay hands on shall not prosper. So shall it be in Jesus’ name.”

Everyone at the protest chanted “Amen”.

THE LAGOS TERRIBLE HOUSING SCHEME

Lagos attained the status of a megacity in 2010 and ever since, poor housing policies keep adding to the challenge of homelessness as more than 77 people come to the city every hour, from other parts of Nigeria.

Many residents of the state are worried by the tragedy they face renting apartments in the city. In fact, Lagos was recently regarded as the city where finding a home to rent is an impossible mission or a city where you pay a year’s rent up front.

This conundrum is undoubtedly caused by over-billing by house owners and housing agents who continuously extort citizens looking for where to lay their heads.

This situation worsened in April and August, during the covid-19 total lockdown in some states, when the Lagos government rendered hundreds of residents of the state homeless after demolishing about 30 houses in Ogba. This demolition sparked lots of criticisms on why the government would render poor citizens homeless, without providing them alternatives. 

Olubukola Salako, Director, Public Affairs, Lagos Ministry of Housing, was not immediately reachable for comments. She did not pick her call when contacted by FIJ.

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Published 20th Apr, 2021

By Ibrahim Adeyemi

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